Ruth was at her workstation when Shawn walked up beside her, carrying a yellow piece of paper. "Here you go, Ruth," he said. "Somebody caught you at your best. Thanks for going the extra mile."
It took Ruth only a second to realize what Shawn meant. Her company recently started a "caught you at your best" program, which allows any employee to thank or acknowledge other employees for doing exceptional work.
On Ruth's card was a handwritten note, thanking her for staying after her normal shift and helping out when the next shift was overloaded but shorthanded.
Caught You At Your Best-type programs are being used in an increasing number of industries, and for good reason:
1. They provide specific detail about a praiseworthy behavior or attitude 2. They're awarded soon after the praiseworthy activity occurred 3. All employees are eligible to receive recognition 4. All employees are empowered to give recognition
In other words, it's nice when a manager notices you did something, but when co-workers notice and take time to write about their observations, it fosters esprit de corps—the spirit of a group that makes all the members of that group want to succeed.
Programs like Caught You At Your Best are great because there's hardly any expense involved, and their key purpose is letting employees value other employees.
How do you value employees?
Many companies proclaim that their employees are their greatest asset. Unfortunately, the phrase has become somewhat cliché, similar to saying employees are "empowered." These are valid statements only if companies put actions behind their claims.
In other words, if you say your employees are your greatest asset, do you treat them as if they are the most valuable part of your company? Do they receive the best of care?
If you're serious about creating a workforce that's engaged and productive, you must devote time and attention to creating environments in which the people on your teams can flourish. And when they flourish, you must take measures to ensure they are protected and well cared for, because that's what people do with their most celebrated and valuable assets. Think about it:
If you were art collector, your most celebrated and valuable assets might be a collection of paintings. Surely you wouldn't pile up your paintings or let them get rained on.
If you were a stamp collector, you would make sure your most celebrated and valuable stamps were stored and protected with extra care.
If you owned racehorses, you would ensure all of those celebrated and valuable assets were very well cared for, too.
I'm not saying treat the people on your teams as if they can't take care of themselves. I'm saying you need to protect your most celebrated and valuable assets - and treat them well.
Protecting your assets
Amazingly, for all the talk some companies give about their employees being their most valuable assets, they don't always treat them well. Perhaps it's telling when you read articles and books about protecting business assets—and never do they mention employees!
Granted, an asset can be defined many ways, but if employees are assets that provide a future economic benefit (and they are), it stands to reason that we ought to be finding ways to protect them. Yes, we can protect them with safety rules, health care, and even fiscal polices. But if you're putting forth the effort to create passion-driven teams, then you're building a rare and highly valuable asset.
Passion-driven teams value trust, belief in the team's ability, and an attitude of sharing best practices. They also value camaraderie, commitment, and continually talk about the team's common purpose.
As you create these conditions, passion-driven teams emerge. They become flexible yet cohesive units and you must be vigilant in protecting them.
This isn't done by sheltering the people on your teams, but by tending the environment that allowed them to grow.
Talk with them regularly to reinforce their belief and their attitude of sharing. Lead the way on demonstrating camaraderie and commitment. And continually talk about the team's common purpose.
Doing so helps protect your most valuable assets, but also enable them to recognize their own and each other's value.
Get everyone celebrating achievement
Bottom line: Your employees truly really are your most valuable asset. Tools like Caught You At Your Best enable employees to recognize and even celebrate above-average effort from other employees. So be careful to protect what you build, but also enable your teams to see the value in each other.